June 3, 2023

Bone of Convention

Bone of ConventionIt’s their party and they can cry if they want to. They might have to scuttle the giant inflatable Bill Clinton they were going to launch over the Pepsi Center.

The New York Times wiped away the makeup and revealed an unfortunate black eye on the planning for the 2008 Democratic Convention in Denver next month. The new boss is in town and he isn’t happy. Senator Obama took over most DNC operations last month, moving most of the day-to-day functions to Obama’s hometown of Chicago. Obama’s team began to apprehend the mess in Denver just weeks ago and have reportedly been none too pleased at both the lack and misdirection of progress, and have sent a cleanup unit of ten staffers to wrest the mess from its current planners.

The disaster is being laid at the feet of the man who helped bring you the Michigan-Florida primary debacle, Governor Howard Dean, and his assistant, the Reverend Leah D. Daughtry. God bless the Governor and his much-vaunted 50 state strategy, but they’ve barely cleaned up the delegate seating mess and he could use a redemptive trajectory to reassure a party that might be wondering if they’d rather be going into battle with the ruthless, step-on-their-neck-and-snuff-the-life-out-of-them street fighter like Rahm Emanuel than the erstwhile stoner ski bum who was probably more adept, consistent, and disciplined at medicine than he has been at politics.

The planning is apparently already $6 million over budget. That’s in addition to the $11 million shortfall from the $40.5 million they’ve estimated to need for their Dream Convention. This is a combination of bad planning and too big a piggy bank. And in a time when we circumstances we should stay frugal and live within our means, this is probably the wrong message to send. Granted, no expects them to rent a banquet room at the Airport Sheraton and have all of the delegates dial in on GoToMeeting, but you don’t want it to get out that you turned down inexpensive office space in favor of top-dollar executive suites in downtown Denver and then deck them out with $50,000 a month rental furniture, during a summer when most of your constituents and those you want to woo who are spending their summer vacations in the backyard or splurge and taking the wife and kids 60 miles down the road to the Enchanted Forest, thanks to a $25 gas card you got at the office Christmas party last year and a travel voucher for the Pony Soldier Inn that you received from a coach flight bump back when you could afford to travel.

Sure, it ain’t Six Flags, but there’s lots of free high-sugared treats at the Pony Soldier’s continental breakfast. And at least six or seven dozen cars in the Forest’s parking lot so they can play the license plate game. And there’s help on the way, thanks to the resurgent Democrats in Denver who are getting together for a week to talk about how they’re going to ease your pain, surrounded by green-friendly vodka ice fountains and buffets of cruelty-free fugu.

Okay, maybe it’s not that bad, but the convention organizing committee has already rankled more than a few dozen local caterers by their onerous demands for color-coordinated food. I’m no event planner, but how about red beans and rice, white-meat chicken, and a nice house salad with blue cheese dressing. It’s cheap, all-American, and will look great with everyone’s flag lapel pins.

What is even more problematic is that the committee is looking at the party’s new Daddy Warbucks to bring his fund-raising mojo to bear and bail out the benched A Team that allegedly spent money like they’d already won the Revolution, and in their monied insularity forgot that they were supposed to be convening in representation of the people to whom $4.22 a gallon gas actually means something, many of whom nonetheless scrounged an extra wrinkled $20, $50, or $100 to send to the Obama Campaign.

Yes, his latest dip in fund-raising prowess notwithstanding, Senator Obama can probably step in and rectify this mess, but he shouldn’t. If he wants to bring in a small posse of his faithful to bring clipboards to foreheads and rulers to wrists and restore some order, so be it, but this party doesn’t need an extravaganza. Today’s Republicans are constitutionally incapable of living in physical discomfort, and the creature comforts and luxury appointments they’ll swath themselves in in Minneapolis, paired with the politically tone-deaf calls for offshore oil drilling, holiday gas taxes, and the continued gift-that-keeps-on-giving of the Bush tax cuts, will provide a hundred pictures and a hundred soundbites worth a thousand words each. The Democrats don’t need to neutralize that by delighting in a lavish, overbudgeted soiree that is bordering on the plutocratic.

That’s not to say they won’t, though. There’s nothing more dangerous than a Democratic party that believes the hype and figures their victory pre-ordained before they even step in the ring for real.